Betty Coker

Daniel Dye / The Herald

Betty Coker, Eclectic Library director, talks about books in the library’s collection.

Long-time Eclectic resident Betty Coker’s career has enough highlights it could easily read as two or three individual careers.

She started her adult life by getting married and having children.

“Before I graduated from Auburn University, I had three children,” she said. “I did it the hard way. When I graduated, I had Shane, Dawn and Donna. They were little doorsteps when I graduated.”

Following her college graduation, she landed a job at Robert E. Lee High School in Montgomery where she coached the school’s gymnastics team and taught health classes.

“At the beginning, I was coaching the gymnastics team,” Coker said. “None of the other high schools had a gymnastics team so we had to go other places to compete.”

She also coached volleyball and tennis during her 30-year career at the school.

“I didn’t have coaching classes at Auburn,” she said. “That’s not how they did it back then. I was a self-taught coach — just like this library. I was not a librarian.”

Following her retirement from Montgomery Public School System, she contacted Edgewood Academy to see if the school had an opening that fit her skill set.

“I called Jimmy Collier and he asked me to come work for Edgewood,” Coker said. 

She requested a health and physical education job. Collier had other plans in mind — for Coker to serve as the school’s librarian.

“That job was right up my alley,” Coker said. “I loved reading to and with the students and dressing up.”

Little did she know taking the job with Edgewood would eventually lead to opening Eclectic’s first library.

“I love it,” she said. “I retired from Edgewood in 2007 when my husband was ill and then I opened up this library in 2010. This building was the old town hall and these three offices were jail cells. It’s been a labor of love.”

Good fortune has been on Coker’s and the library’s side before she issued the first library card.

“The Daniel Foundation sent the library a check for $7,500,” she said. “It was unbelievable. I wasn’t a grant writer. We’ve just been so blessed abundantly here. Things just fall into place.”

According to Coker, the library received a matching grant totaling $27,000. One day she was speaking with a friend when Coker mentioned The Daniel Foundation offered her a grant that had to be matched.

“A good friend of mine named Betty Fulmer, her son, Randy, who was CEO of the Alabama Supercomputer Authority, passed away,” Coker said. “Betty wanted to honor him and she wrote the library a check for $15,000. That $27,000 allowed us to renovate the building behind the library.”

Also, the community continues to donate to the library. In 2019, the library collected $3,033 in donations during its annual fundraiser. In 2018, the amount was $1,200.

Coker said Barnes & Noble offered the library shelves and tables that took several city-owned trailers to move from Montgomery to Eclectic.

Today, the 1,600-square-foot facility houses 15,400 books, has issued 2,094 library cards since it opened in 2010 and offers a variety of programs for children, teens and adults including a book club, Spanish classes and a ukulele class taught by Coker.

The library is open from 1 to 5 p.m. on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursday and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays and is located at 50 Main St. in downtown Eclectic.